Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spot the difference - Communist China vs democratic Singapore


China detains documentary filmmaker

31 Mar 2006 15:37:03 EST
CBC Arts

Chinese authorities say they are a holding a documentary filmmaker because he committed a crime but are refusing to give any other details.

Wu Hao has been in police custody in Beijing since Feb. 22. His sister, Wu Na, says she found out Thursday that her brother is being held in relation to a crime but authorities will not allow her to visit him.

"They told me there was no way I can see him," Wu Na said in a telephone interview to the Associated Press. "I'm really shocked at this development. This is a place that's administered by law and yet they can't tell me anything."

She says police have told her that her brother's case is "secret."

Wu Hao spent 12 years living in the U.S. before returning to China in 2004 to make documentaries. The 32-year-old filmmaker's first documentary, Beijing or Bust, dealt with young U.S.-born Chinese living in Beijing.

He had been making a documentary about unregistered Christian churches in China and also participating in a hunger strike to protest the way political dissidents are treated before his mysterious arrest.

Prior to that, the filmmaker had met with Gao Zhisheng, a Beijing lawyer who launched a symbolic hunger strike in February to protest violence against political dissidents. Thousands of others joined the hunger strike campaign and at least 10 of those people have been detained by police or disappeared, according to Gao.

Human rights groups and media watchdogs including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders, also called for Wu Hao's immediate release.

"Wu Hao is the sort of courageous and thoughtful journalist China needs," said Ann Cooper, CPJ's executive director, in a statement.

The CPJ says editing equipment and videotapes were confiscated from the filmmaker's apartment in Beijing two days after he disappeared. It wasn't until a full week later that officials at the Beijing Public Security Bureau contacted Wu Na to tell her that her brother - who she thought had disappeared - was being investigated.

"The Chinese government really shoots itself in the foot by detaining people like Hao," Wu Na said in a statement published through the CPJ.

Singapore film-maker questioned by police over movie on rebel

22 March 2006

SINGAPORE - A Singapore film-maker says he has been questioned again by police over his documentary about an opposition politician.

Martyn See told the Foreign Correspondents Association that he was questioned for about 30 minutes on Monday over his short documentary Singapore Rebel about Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party. See's Singapore Rebel has been classified by local censors as having violated the Films Act because of its political content.

The Films Act bans political advertising using films or videos, as well as movies directed towards any political end such as promoting political parties.

See has not been charged but the maximum penalty for making a political film is two years in jail or a $61,850 fine.

"It's arbitrary, the way they term a political film, what constitutes a political film," See said. "Until today I’ve not been told why Singapore Rebel is a political film."

Chinese blogs face restrictions

The Chinese government has announced plans to police web forums, chat rooms and blogs alongside other websites.
Websites in China have long been required to be officially registered.

The authorities are now determined that blogs should also be brought under state control.

Press advocacy group Reporters without Borders said the initiative would "enable those in power to control online news and information much more effectively".

Private bloggers must register the full identity of the person responsible for the sites, the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry (MII) said.

Commercial publishers and advertisers can face fines of up to one million yuan (£66,000) if they fail to register.

All blogs and websites must be registered by 30 June.

'Don't bother'

The authorities hope to push the most outspoken online sites to migrate abroad where they will become inaccessible to those inside China because of the Chinese filtering systems
Reporters Without Borders

"The internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people's spirits," said a statement on the MII website, explaining why the new rules were necessary.

It has developed a system which will monitor sites in real time and search each web address for its registration number. Any that are not registered will be reported back to the Ministry, the statement said.

Blogs are often used in countries where freedom of speech is limited as a way of speaking out against the ruling power.

The new rules could be devastating for bloggers who do not toe the Chinese Communist party line, said Reporters Without Borders.

"Those who continue to publish under their real names on sites hosted in China will either have to avoid political subjects or just relay the Communist Party's propaganda," the organisation said.

"The authorities hope to push the most outspoken online sites to migrate abroad where they will become inaccessible to those inside China because of the Chinese filtering systems," it added.

Known as the Great Firewall, the filtering system used by the Chinese government is not entirely unbreachable; for every new restriction and technical door that it slams shut, the Chinese people find a hack, a workaround or an entirely new way of communicating.

According to official figures, about 75% of sites have already complied with the new procedure.

In May, many bloggers received e-mails telling them to register or face having their blogs declared illegal.

But one anonymous China-based blogger told Reporters Without Borders that when he phoned the MII to register he was told not to bother because "there was no chance of an independent blog getting permission to publish".

Singapore bans podcasting during elections and warns political bloggers

Political debate on the Internet could fuel "dangerous discourse" in Singapore, the city-state's government said on Monday, warning that Singaporeans who post political commentary on Web sites could face prosecution.

Speaking in parliament, Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan said anyone using the Internet to "persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues" about Singapore during election periods was breaking the law.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose People's Action Party has dominated politics in the city-state since its independence in 1965, is widely expected to call early elections in the coming months.

"In a free-for-all Internet environment, where there are no rules, political debate could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse, flush with rumors and distortions to mislead and confuse the public," Sadasivan said.

The tiny island-republic's laws require political parties and individuals to register if they want to post political content on the Net.

Print media in Singapore are tightly controlled, but the Internet is rife with Web sites that discuss Singapore politics, from the critical newsgroup Sg-review to the comical Talkingcock.com and blogs such as Singabloodypore and Yawningbread.

It is not clear whether any of these sites has registered with the government.

While Sadasivan said the government's approach was to take "a light touch" in regulating the Internet, political activists have complained that the rules are too broadly defined, preventing an open debate. Sadasivan said a change of the law was ruled out.

The rules also apply to "podcasting," an increasingly popular medium through which audio files are made available for download on the Internet, allowing Web surfers to listen to them at their convenience.

Last year, opposition politician Chee Soon Juan launched a podcast on the Singapore Democratic Party's Web site in an attempt to reach a wider audience and bypass the pro-government media.

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